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June 18, 2012

Cockfighting Bust in California Seizes Hundreds of Birds, Cache of Fighting Equipment

The HSUS has a zero-tolerance policy on animal fighting, and we work closely with law enforcement agencies to root out the practice in whatever dark corners it still persists. Last week, The HSUS’s’ Animal Rescue Team deployed to Tulare County, Calif., to help bust what appears to be one of the largest distributors in the United States of knives, gaffs, and other equipment used for illegal cockfighting. Our animal fighting investigators had previously shared information with local authorities about Sanchez-Mendoza, a Mexico-based company suspected of selling cockfighting paraphernalia.

Birds at the California cockfighting raid
Photo: Alex Gallardo
Birds at the cockfighting raid in Tulare County, Calif.

In stultifying heat, topping 100 degrees, our team assisted Tulare County Animal Services and the Tulare County sheriff (see video) in seizing more than 380 roosters and hens, as well as gathering up about 1,200 knives along with an extensive cache of records about buyers of this equipment.

Cockfighters generally strap small, curved knives or gaffs to roosters’ legs before putting them into the pit to fight. With the addition of these sharp weapons, the birds can pierce each others’ lungs, eyes, or other organs―causing horrific injuries and often death. It’s a federal crime―under a law which The HSUS worked to enact―to possess or sell these implements.

Juan Carlos Gonzalez and his wife, Leticia Aguilar Gonzalez, were arrested and each charged with 1,107 misdemeanors and felonies for possession of animal fighting paraphernalia, conspiracy, and many other charges related to cockfighting. Officials seized more than $33,000 worth of knives alone, in addition to other paraphernalia typically used for cockfighting. The operation had concealed many of the blades inside potato chip cans and was allegedly shipping them all over the country for sale.

We hope this raid puts a dent in this trade, and plays its part in the death by a thousand cuts to the cockfighting industry.

 

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